NEW YORK – Bernard Madoff gave the Securities and Exchange Commission a list of his personal assets Wednesday, but investors may have to wait to learn whether the filing contained any clues as to the whereabouts of their missing billions.
The disgraced money manager, now under house arrest, had faced a court-ordered deadline of Dec. 31 to turn over a detailed accounting of his homes, stock holdings, bank accounts and other business interests.
The list was also supposed to include the names and locations of any bank or brokerage accounts holding whatever remains of his clients' money.
The SEC confirmed Wednesday evening that it had received the filing, but it declined to reveal details or make the documents available to journalists. The list was not filed publicly in any of the courts handling the Madoff case, and SEC spokesmen said no decision had been made as to whether part or all of the asset disclosure would ultimately be made public.
Madoff's attorney, Ira Sorkin, said his client was abiding by the court order, but the attorney would not comment further.
Any Madoff assets disclosed in the filing or unearthed by investigators could eventually be tapped to make restitution to victims of what authorities say was a massive Ponzi scheme.
Madoff's personal wealth is said to be substantial. He had mansions in the Hamptons and Palm Beach, Fla., a penthouse in Manhattan and a handful of luxury yachts. His firm operated proprietary stock trading desks in New York and London that were supposedly investing the family's vast fortune.
Still, those assets would likely cover only a fraction of the billions of dollars that investors entrusted to Madoff.
Law firms representing Madoff's clients said they were nonetheless still eager to see what might be available to repay victims.
"Like everyone else, we expect it to be made public," said attorney Matthew Gluck, a partner at Milberg LLP. Gluck added that if the SEC refuses to disclose the documents, his law firm would consider other steps to obtain the information.
Several disgruntled investors have already filed lawsuits against either Madoff or the hedge funds that fed his business.
On Monday, a top SEC official is set to face a Congressional panel investigating the scandal.
The House Financial Services Committee, which is preparing for the most substantial rewrite of laws governing U.S. financial markets since the Great Depression, is scheduled to take testimony from SEC inspector general H. David Kotz.
A major focus of the hearing will be the inability of the SEC to unearth the scandal, said Rep. Paul Kanjorski, D-Pa., who will chair the hearing. The SEC has come under criticism for not fully investigating fraud allegations against Madoff's investment firm. SEC Chairman Christopher Cox has acknowledged that there were multiple failures by agency staff during previous inquiries.
"Sadly, Mr. Madoff's actions have further weakened the already-battered investor confidence in our securities markets," Kanjorski said in a statement. "We can, however, better understand how to reform the U.S. financial system by carefully examining this Ponzi scheme."
Madoff, 70, a former Nasdaq stock market chairman, is accused of running a scheme that paid fictitious returns to certain investors out of the principal received from others. Madoff remains under house arrest in his apartment in New York as part of an earlier bail agreement.